Gina Liggio Maestri, DDS

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How to Kick the Thumb Sucking Habit

Hannah Johnson - Friday, July 27, 2018 - 


Thumb sucking is a natural habit and perfectly normal for infants and can be soothing to them, so most experts agree that children under the age of 5 should not be pressured to stop sucking their fingers (unless their permanent teeth are coming in or if it’s causing speech issues) because most children around age 5 will naturally quit sucking their thumb. On the other hand, research has proven that if a child older than 3-5 years old (whenever their permanent teeth begin to come in) continues to suck their thumb, it can cause teeth to be pushed forward resulting in braces and/or additional dental issues. If you’re concerned about their finger-sucking habit, then continue to read on to help him or her break it!

1. The first step is to explain to your child that sucking his or her thumb can be bad for them if they continue. Explain that it spreads germs that could make them sick, it could cause other children to tease them when they get into school, and that it could even result in speech problems. The talk alone may not get them to stop right away but they will have more will-power to quit when you use these next few tips below.

2. Practicing positive reinforcement is a good way to stop your child from sucking his or her fingers. Praising your child or placing a sticker on the calendar every day your child refrains from thumb-sucking and offer a reward when he or she gets so many stickers can be a great solution. Because thumb-sucking may occur when your child is feeling anxious or stressed, offer them comfort with a hug or hand hold.

3. During the early stages of thumb-sucking, instead of always pacifying him or her by sucking, try alternatives such as rocking, massaging, or singing. The earlier your child learns there are other ways to find comfort, the better. If they need something to suck when they’re younger, always encourage a pacifier because it’s easier to take away when the time comes.

4. Figure out when your child is most likely to suck their thumb and substitute a different activity they can do with both hands to make them forget about sucking their thumb, maybe while watching tv, suggest playing a game instead like tossing a ball or playing finger puppets. Or maybe when reading a bed time story, instead of letting them suck their thumb while you read, have them hold the book themselves.

5. Try not to pressure them too much if they’re not giving it up right away. They indulge in this habit to give them comfort and security, so nagging and punishing them to stop may cause them to want to do it even more.

You can do it with these tips above! Should you have any questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to us 337-704-2126

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